Charley Reese's Viewpoint in the Memphis Flyer (April 20th issue) is an affront not only to American Jews but to all Americans of good faith and most especially those of us who love and believe in democracy.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran has made it eminently clear that his goal in developing a nuclear arsenal is to annihilate the state of Israel. When dictators speak, it is wise to listen. Had the world taken Mein Kampf more seriously and not written it off as the benign musings of a little Austrian house painter, perhaps the millions of casualties of World War II might have met a different fate. Moreover, when anyone, be he a despot or a local skinhead, advocates the annihilation of the state of Israel, he is ipso facto attacking all Jews and Judaism itself. The Jewish state came into being not just to establish a new political entity but to create a haven for Jews. At no time since the Holocaust have there been more calls for the genocide of the Jews. To threaten the existence of the state is to question the right of Jews to exist at all.
The use of the word "roach" by Reese, i.e. cockroach, is particularly horrendous, having been used not long ago in Rwanda to incite the slaughter of the Tutsis there. In March 1993, an article appeared in an extremist Hutu newspaper titled "The Cockroach Cannot Give Birth to a Butterfly." By dehumanizing the enemy and suggesting that future generations will be no better, the article rallied the forces of hatred just as the Nazis did in Der Sturmer. The implication that now Israel is the roach in the American salad carries heinous undertones.
The American alliance with the state of Israel is based on kindred political beliefs, primarily in democracy and the sanctity of human life. The "roach" in the salad, if that terminology is to be utilized at all, is the radical dictator who leads citizens into poverty, unwanted wars, and misery.
There is no historical evidence to the claim that populations support their dictators when those despots come under attack. Quite the opposite is true. The tributes to Lenin and Stalin could not crumble fast enough in the former Soviet Union. When Idi Amin came under attack in Uganda in 1979, his people forced him into exile and subsequently labeled him a war criminal. Democracies do not go to war against other democracies because their elected leaders are driven by the will of the people. And dictatorships lose wars when they fight democracies because their people are not fighting to save a way of life that they have chosen and cherish.
Reese's view of the Middle East is so distorted that it would be futile to undertake a rational and comprehensive response. However, where his language and claims are most insidious lie in his accusations regarding a so-called Israeli lobby. In truth, people of all faiths in this country who support Israel do so for its strategic value, its friendship with the United States and the free world, and a host of other reasons. No country on earth has willingly relinquished territory for the sake of peace when there is no partner with whom to negotiate, and yet Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did just that when he withdrew Israeli troops and citizens from Gaza in the summer of 2005. Americans of all religious pursuits recognize such efforts for the sake of peace and applaud them.
Finally, in recalling the anti-Semitic slur of the French ambassador to London, M. Bernard, who labeled Israel "a (expletive deleted) little country," Reese exposes himself as a man of questionable values and an obvious lack of good judgment. That same French diplomat was chastised by his government for his indiscretion. Recently, under the guise of criticism of Israeli politics, anti-Semites have comfortably spewed Jew hatred publicly in the media with no misgivings. Since the end of World War II and the Gentleman's Agreement era, never have anti-Semites been so comfortable taking their egregious slander out of the back rooms and bringing it into the heart of "genteel company."
Perhaps in a democratic society (unlike those with whom Reese would have us align ourselves), the press must engage the likes of a Charley Reese to express his opinion. However, it is appalling that the Memphis Flyer would carry such a column without a disclaimer advising its readership that the editorial staff does not agree, nay, that it unequivocally abhors, the hateful venom espoused therein.